ENGL428Y - Culture Ideology in Austen and Byron
0101 - Orrin Wang

At first glance, the novels of Jane Austen and the poetry of Lord Byron seem to exist in two different universes. Yet these two writers of the British Regency share a number of common interests: the complicated calculus that goes into surviving the oftentimes invisible mores of a society; the way that desire navigates an ever increasing set of codes about gender and class in early nineteenth-century Britain; the way that British modernity turns both art and human relationships into market commodities; and the degree to which people present and act upon world views at odds with the material reality of their situations. Both writers interrogated these themes through the satire and the gothic; both also made their studies opportunities to reflect upon the meanings of those very genres. Both authors thematize the question of culture and ideology in their writings; at the same time, they invite readers to see their works as cultural documents and ideological artifacts of their time. This honors seminar that will explore the surprising and intriguing resonances between these two early nineteenth-century British writers. We will read the novels of Austen, such as Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Emma, as well as all seventeen cantos of Byron’s epic poem, Don Juan. There will also be secondary readings about both works as well as pieces that theorize the ideas culture and ideology, such as those of Clifford Geertz, Raymond Williams, and perhaps even some Pierre Bordieu. The hope is that these readings will show students how much Austen and Bryon can be considered both proto-anthropologists and proto-ideological critics; how their works can be seen as “cultural studies” both in the anthropological sense and also in the way that their writings investigate the divide between elite and mass culture. Course requirements: presentations, short papers, and a longer seminar research paper.

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors required (kcoles@umd.edu).


Junior standing. For English Majors only.